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Allen Lederlin

Italian ?

- Yes, of course, I am originally from Verona, a very beautiful city. But I live in France; I work in Switzerland, a stone's throw from Germany. I am a citizen of Europe.

- Northern Italy was the cradle of the greatest painters. But curiously, your works are more reminiscent of northern Europe. Why ?

- Essentially they depict landscapes, in the Dutch or English tradition. But my subjects have nothing real about them and are not drawn from life. They are often imaginary landscapes, tinged with childhood memories or feelings; pure landscapes without human figuration. I don't go around all the time with a sketchbook in my pocket, as Turner did!

- Why not put human silhouettes into your paintings? Turner, a pure landscape painter, always added a few figures ---- sometimes tiny and anecdotal--- who were only there to provide scale to his landscapes.

- But this was also to give more veracity to his canvases, and satisfy contemporary taste. I feel no need to do this. I think nature is sufficient unto itself. It is so grand, so beautiful, so varied. Perhaps this absence of figures answers to an unconscious need to escape from our over-populated urban civilization. My painting is essentially imaginary. I think it is seeking primordial nature: portraying paradise after Adam and Eve had been expelled from it, where I am alone. It is the inner counterpart to my daily life as a woman, so busy managing her profession, her family and her children. Though it may be something of a cliché to say so, my painting is my ivory tower. I paint for pleasure, in solitude.

- How did you come to this art form, because I know you are a musician by profession * ? 

- There are famous examples of painter-musicians. Painting is so to speak my violon d'Ingres. There are certain correlations between these two arts, and the same appeal to sensibility. I see landscapes hidden in the music I play, and inversely: my musical culture readily makes an impact on my paintings. I have one entitled Eine Alpensinfonie. Following the complete humanists of the Italian Renaissance, didn't Baudelaire write, "Fragrances, colours and sounds answer to each other. There are fragrances that are cool as infants' flesh, soft as oboes, green as fields..." ?

I realized quite early on that I wanted to paint. But first I had to be settled in life before I could really think of doing it. It has been a tangible and important occupation for me for ten years now. I have taken a few courses, but I am self-taught, and I am proud of it, with all the advantages and inconveniences of such a path. 

- Whether you like it or not, you have been subject to influences. One never starts from nothing. Which painters have made an impression on you ? I thought I discerned Munch.

- Yes, no doubt that's true. I have often been told so. I like Munch very much. I like the fluidity of his painting, his deep colours. But also Hodler, a very great painter who is not sufficiently well known outside his native Switzerland. It was there that I discovered him. He painted many Alpine landscapes. But Hodler's lines are more abrupt than mine. One must relativize these external influences. In the same way that an artist undergoes influences and practises art through them, the beholder of a work of art sees it through the lens of his own completely diverse culture.

- Like Hodler, you paint many mountain landscapes.

- When I was in Italy, I lived one and a half hours' drive from the Dolomites. I often went there with my father. Mountains belong to my paradise. But I also have other themes, such as trees, wind, snow, water, and so on.

- Let's talk about your paintings: they are not simple figurations. They give the impression of a space divided by a number of fluid lines. 

- Yes, I start with a lattice of lines that I begin to draw in a small format, a kind of rapid pen sketch. Then I decide whether or not to transform it into a painting. After that, I weave my web onto the canvas, like a spider, though not in a geometrical spirit, on the contrary; and this lattice fragmenting the space of the painting allows me to capture, not midges, but colours, according to my subject and my inspiration. It is rather similar to the principle of colouring in.  

- Except that the trees are not necessarily green, the sky is rarely blue, and each fragment is itself the object of variations in colour.

- Once again, I don't try to reproduce nature. I am just inspired by it. Quite often I adopt viewpoints that profoundly modify the subject's iconography, such as aerial views--- for example, that crest line separating the cold shades of the shadow of the sunny slopes, in my diptych La Chute and Dyade.

- The transformation is such that it approaches abstraction...

- That's true, but it is rather rare. I am a figurative painter. Let's say that it's my way of depicting the world. Art, like the spectacle of nature, needs to be read and assimilated on several levels by both the viewer and the artist. This fragmentation accords with the complexity of the natural world, and allows a diversity of portrayal.

- You prefer large formats ?

- I don't have the temperament or the patience of a miniaturist.

- Indeed, you seem to have quite a straightforward temperament. Isn't there a contradiction here with paintings that are complex ?

- It is their contradictions which give them their richness. That is, complexity, men and women (laughter)

- We end fittingly with your signature: your initials remind one of the logo of a brand of luxury car.

- I have no problem with its benefiting from my fame! (laughter!!)


Interview with Allen LEDERLIN, June 2020

* Rossana Rossignoli has been Principal Clarinetist of the Basel Symphony Orchestra since 2010. 

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